Dr. Susan O’Malley
“Aging with Grace: 3 New Wrinkles from a Cosmetic Doctor” – Watch HERE.
3rd Annual TEDxWilmingtonWomen: Showing Up // 30 November 2018

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Dr. Susan O'Malley TEDxWilmingtonWomen

Meet the Speakers: Dr. Susan O’Malley for TEDxWilmingtonWomen

The email arrived in my inbox at 12:31pm. I saw it at 12:58pm. Like many of you, my inbox is overloaded and I do a lot of subject scanning before opening. But there it was – Your Official Invitation to Give a TEDxWilmington talk in November – in my inbox!!

A gasp came out of me and I just sat there, frozen. Is this real? Could it be? A two and a half year journey, nine applications, six different ideas I deemed worthy of spreading, advancing to the next level three times – is the dream really coming true?

Subject to approval by TED for TEDxWilmington to host the 2018 TEDxWilmingtonWomen Conference, the TEDxWilmington tribe is delighted to inform you… 

I sent the ALL CAPS THANK YOU email off to TEDxWilmington founding organizer Ajit George before I even opened the eight attachments. And then I re-read the email. Subject to approval – what does that mean? No! Impossible – I could not have gotten this far and still be in jeopardy of losing it!

Like it or not, it meant exactly what it said. I was totally qualified, my idea was worthy of spreading AND the rest was out of my control. The lesson in proceeding  As If  began. But I had been there before. TEDxWW, I can wait. I can proceed as if.

I’m the girl who was rejected from 42 medical schools the first year and twenty-one the second year. I’m the girl who found herself on the waiting list of the one and only school who showed any interest. I’m the girl whose life changed with a phone call three weeks before medical school started. I’m the girl who started medical school six months pregnant without a husband, medical insurance, furniture, child care or any semblance of a plan. I’m Dr. Susan O’Malley, yeah, I can wait. I can proceed as if.

As I write this blog, I have already met two of the application deadlines submitting three head shot, two bios, a working title, an outline and a 60 second promotional video. And I’m still not sure that I’ll be speaking on November 30th.

It’s like being on the waiting list again for medical school. I was qualified to get in but the rest is out of my control. As I reflect on the why of this situation, I am reminded that any great honor that was bestowed upon me in my life came when the time was right, not when I wanted the time to be right. And it will be the same for this. Isn’t the lesson always patience?

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the TEDx process: Dr. Susan O’Malley for TEDxWilmingtonWomen

The countdown is on! Weeks to go! I have accomplished so much and yet there is so much more to finish before I take my place on the red circle.

My idea worth spreading had been in my head for over a year. I crafted my idea with my coach, Geoffrey Berwind long before TEDxWW said yes. Boy, was I glad about that because there have been a few curve balls that could have derailed me during the last six weeks. The world may stand still the moment you get accepted, but life doesn’t stop!

Curve ball #1: The same week I got accepted for TEDxWW, I was also chosen to give a webinar for a Human Resources Summit. (Isn’t it always all or nothing!?) Taping the webinar, putting together the slide deck and synchronizing the slides to video took a lot of time and brainpower.

Curve ball #2: A pinched nerve in my back and my neck slowed me down on good days and brought me to a screeching halt on others. It also bought me three visits a week with a chiropractor. Just another thing to fit into the schedule! Funny thing about pain, it takes center stage whether you give it a spotlight or not.

Curve ball #3: Because the cliché is true – timing is everything, my coach left for a three week planned vacation days after my acceptance arrived. I felt a moment of panic, but realized very quickly that we had already laid the foundation and all I had to do was stand on it.

I’m at the point in the process where I’m talking to myself. I have repeated my talk in my head at least fifty times and there will be hundreds more to go before I share it. I say it in the shower, in the car, first thing waking up in the morning, last thought trying to go to sleep at night.

Over and over and over again; and every time I make a mistake, I start from the beginning. As you might imagine, I can now recite the beginning of my talk in my sleep!

In my first post, I compared waiting for TEDxWW to being on the waiting list for medical school. As I reflect on this process, there is yet another similarity. Without even realizing it, I had laid a strong foundation during college so that when a baby came in my first year of medical school, I was tired and overwhelmed, but I wasn’t lost.

So too with this process. Because I worked with Geoffrey for a year on this talk, my message was internalized which made the curve balls much less daunting.

And so the lesson? (Because there’s always a lesson) Whatever your path, lay a good foundation.

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TEDxWilmington Dr Susan OMalley, Photo by Alessandra NicoleReflecting: Dr. Susan O’Malley for TEDxWilmingtonWomen

I have spoken on stages before. As a former emergency room doctor, author and owner and medical director of Madison Med Spa I have addressed many issues; leadership, adversity and women’s empowerment to name a few. All of those talks were different, but they all had three similarities – they were all at least thirty minutes long, they were based on a theme and they included stories.

This was different. There was no approaching a theme from different perspectives, no examples from my own experiences to support the message, no extraneous stories from which to draw parallels. Today was ten minutes and an idea.

This was an experience like no other. We all gathered at 8:30am the day before the event for rehearsal. Ajit sat on the stage giving us a little debrief and then spontaneously decided to have us come up one by one, sit next to him on the stage and introduce ourselves. Within two hours, we went from 27 people to a bonded group.

After an entire day of rehearsal and a speaker’s dinner that ended at 9pm, we went from a bonded group to lifelong friends. It sounds crazy, but it happened. The next day, we were all each other’s champion. And two days later, giving everyone just enough time to travel home, the social media connections were flying!

I worked harder on this ten minute talk than any hour presentation I have ever given. It was all in my head and in my heart. Now it had to come out of my mouth. There would be no second chance, no slides to prompt me, no opportunity to go back and clarify an issue that might not have landed as well as I had hoped.

As I was waiting in the wings being introduced, I offered up a silent prayer. I asked God to help me honor Him and to help me reach just one person. An incredible sense of calm came over me as I walked onto the red circle. And I delivered my talk flawlessly.

My talk was based on statistics from the American Society of Plastic Surgeons and my experience as a cosmetic doctor watching women contort themselves to hide their cosmetic treatments. I discussed the role that judgement plays in holding us back from aging authentically.

After my talk, many women came up to me to thank me for sharing my message, letting me know I gave them a lot to think about. But it was a fifteen year old girl who touched my heart. TEDxWilmingtonWomen had given some scholarship tickets to a dozen Catholic high school girls. They were all in their uniform and took up an entire row.

A beautiful, fresh faced young child in her high school uniform broke from the pack to speak to me. “I wanted to let you know that I really enjoyed your talk. You’re a doctor and you said that we could age however we wanted and that was very empowering to me.”

That was very empowering to me. Fifteen years old. That could have only happened at TEDxWilmington. I believe my prayer was answered.

Watch Dr. Susan O’Malley’s TEDx talk HERE.

TEDxWilmingtonWomen 2018, Photograph by Alessandra Nicole


In the ER, Dr. Susan O’Malley saved lives. At Madison Med Spa, a cosmetic practice dedicated to helping women stay beautiful, she now saves self-esteem. Dr. Susan’s passion is rooted in her story. An accident as a toddler left her with a dental disfigurement that consumed her childhood and beyond. That event and its devastating aftermath taught Dr. O’Malley the importance of beauty in a way no other experience could. Once a college drop-out and a secretary, Dr. O’Malley shares lessons of perseverance in her book Tough Cookies Don’t Crumble: Turn Set-Backs into Success. Dr. O’Malley is a two time presenter at Hubspot’s INBOUND conference. She is currently serving as President of the Connecticut chapter of the National Speakers Association. READ MORE

3rd Annual TEDxWilmingtonWomen: Showing Up // 30 November 2018
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